Truck DriverIn Godfrey v. Oakland Port Services, ___ Cal.App.4th ___  (October 28, 2014), the California Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division Two) affirmed the order of the Alameda County Superior Court (Judge Freedman) certifying a class of drivers who claimed, among other wage and hour violations, that they were not paid for missed meal and rest periods. The appellate court also upheld the trial court’s decision in plaintiffs’ favor after a bench trial on the merits.

Plaintiffs were truck drivers for defendant employer who claimed that that they were not paid for all hours worked and, in some circumstances, were misclassified as non-employee trainees who were not paid at all.  Plaintiffs also claimed that defendant failed to provide required meal and rest breaks.   Consequently, they filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other drivers for numerous wage and hour violations.  The trial court granted plaintiffs’ class certification motion, and the case proceeded to a bench trial.  At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court issued a Statement of Decision and Judgment, finding in favor of plaintiffs.  Specifically, the trial court found that:  (1) defendant failed to pay for all hours worked because its records showed that “it deducted one hour per day from each employee. This deduction took place, even though the driver did not receive a one hour meal period”; (2) “[defendant] misclassified drivers who were suffered or permitted to work as non- employees, or unpaid ‘trainees.’ . . . The evidence reflected these trainees were suffered or permitted [to] work by [defendant] and were not paid at all”; and (3) plaintiffs had “presented substantial and persuasive evidence that class members were routinely and  consistently precluded by [defendant] from taking meal periods and rest breaks.” Consequently, the class was awarded a total of $964,557.08 plus their attorneys’ fees and costs.  Defendant appealed, arguing that California’s meal and rest break requirements, as applied to motor carriers, are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA).

The appellate court disagreed, finding that the FAAA does not preempt claims for missed meal and rest periods by truck drivers.  Specifically, the court noted that the FAAAA’s preemption clause is limited to laws that relate to price, route, or service concerning the transportation of property. Defendant failed, however, to offer any evidence that California’s meal and rest break laws had any impact on its prices, routes or services.